The IDF defends killing a Palestinian teen. Witnesses rebuff its story

The IDF defended its shooting of Ali Abu Aliya, 15, by claiming that a protest was endangering nearby drivers. But witnesses say the teen was nowhere near the road in question when he was shot.

Mourners at the funeral of of Ali Abu Aliya, 15, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Dec. 4, al-Mughayyer, occupied West Bank, Dec. 5, 2020. (Oren Ziv)
Mourners at the funeral of of Ali Abu Aliya, 15, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Dec. 4, al-Mughayyer, occupied West Bank, Dec. 5, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

On Friday, Dec. 4, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 15-year-old Ali Abu Aliya in the West Bank village of al-Mughayyer, near Ramallah. Abu Aliya, who was reportedly due to celebrate his birthday that evening, was shot with live ammunition while watching a demonstration taking place in the village.

Following the killing, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stressed that Palestinians “tried to roll large rocks and burning tires… risking the lives of passengers on the Allon road [the nearby main road that crosses the West Bank from north to south].” Nonetheless, the military also stated that it had opened an investigation into the killing.

However, three young Palestinians who stood near Abu Aliya on Friday and spoke to +972 testify that Abu Aliya was not standing near Allon Road when Israeli soldiers opened fire on him. Furthermore, it would have been impossible to throw stones at Allon Road or to otherwise endanger those driving along it from where Abu Aliya was shot.

Two videos published in the Palestinian and Israeli media following the incident do show Palestinians rolling large rocks, as per the army’s statement. But the army could not confirm to +972 the exact location of the video published by the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, and according to anti-occupation organization B’Tselem, which conducted an as-yet-unpublished independent investigation into the shooting, the video of Palestinians rolling stones was not filmed at al-Mughayyer at all. Protesters who examined the footage indicated that it was shot in Malik. The distance between the village of Malik and al-Mughayyer, where Abu Aliya was shot dead, is over three miles.

A month of protests

For the past month, Palestinian and Israeli demonstrators have been protesting in Samiya, between Malik and al-Mughayyer, against an unauthorized settlement outpost established east of Allon Road.

During a demonstration on Nov. 20, the Israeli army blocked the exit from Malik in the direction of Allon Road, in order to prevent protesters from approaching the road in the direction of the outpost, around 2.5 miles from where the demonstration was taking place. Because of the army’s decision to block the exit, the demonstration moved to the area of a pumping station in the village of Ein Samia, about 350 feet from the road.

Meanwhile, the army has also been blocking the access routes between al-Mughayyer and Allon Road to prevent the village residents from joining the protest, and to stop protesters from other villages from reaching the outpost.

According to testimonies from three teenagers who witnessed the events last Friday, a military force entered al-Mughayyer on foot at around 9 a.m. while soldiers blocked the exit from the village. Clashes began on two hills on the outskirts of the village following the army’s arrival. Soldiers hurled stun grenades and fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at dozens of boys who threw stones.

“Eight soldiers were standing on the hill and then three or four more joined them, they advanced toward the village,” said Bassem, Abu Aliya’s brother, a week after Ali was killed. “They were not Border Police officers. Border Police were sent to the demonstration itself, and three of them had sniper rifles,” [most likely rifles that fire live .22 bullets, the kind that killed Abu Aliya].

Later that morning, between 10 and 11 a.m., the soldiers reached a white dirt path that leads to a neighborhood on the outskirts of the village, about 650 feet away. From the path one cannot see Allon Road, and it is certainly not possible to throw stones at the road from that location. “One soldier was lying on the ground with the sniper rifle,” Bassem continued, “and above him stood an officer who instructed him where to shoot.”

Mourners at the funeral of of Ali Abu Aliya, 15, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Dec. 4, al-Mughayyer, occupied West Bank, Dec. 5, 2020. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)
Mourners at the funeral of of Ali Abu Aliya, 15, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Dec. 4, al-Mughayyer, occupied West Bank, Dec. 5, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

Bassem and two other witnesses who were at the scene say that the soldiers gathered on the path, while a small group of teenagers hid on both sides of the path behind olive trees and a mound of dirt. “Some of them took photos, and they had a drone that took photos from above,” said Ahmad, 17, a friend of Abu Aliya. According to their testimonies, some of the soldiers fired tear gas, while other soldiers hid in hopes of stopping the stone-throwers.

‘It was his birthday’

There are still bullet casings on the ground where the Israeli sniper shot Abu Aliya. According to measurements conducted by the residents, around 500 feet separated the sniper’s location and the place where Abu Aliya was hit. According to B’Tselem, the distance between the soldier and Abu Aliya was also about 500 feet.

“Ali was standing next to me, very far from the soldiers, and suddenly we saw he was wounded,” Ahmad recalled. “He was holding his stomach. He was not bleeding, so we thought it was a rubber bullet or a light injury. We found a car that took him to the clinic in Turmusayya.”

“He was still speaking,” his brother Bassem said of the moments following the shooting. “After that he lost consciousness.”

According to Bassem, the soldiers continued to fire tear gas for another half hour before leaving. He said many of the teenagers hid for some time following the shooting, for fear of being harmed.

Othman, 17, who was also at the scene of the killing, said that the teens had heard the gunfire but did not understand what had happened. “The children were standing closer to the soldiers, but they hid on the sides of the path because they saw a sniper. They peeked, threw stones, and ran back.”

Othman doesn’t rule out the possibility that the sniper tried to hit another young man who was standing closer to the soldiers than Abu Aliya and his friends, but moved at the last minute. The other two witnesses claim that no one stood between them and the sniper. “The guys who were closer to the soldiers were afraid to stand on the path because they saw that there was a sniper,” said Ahmad. All three point out that Abu Aliya did not participate in the clashes at all.

“It was his birthday,” Ahmed added as he stood where his friend was shot. “He did not want to linger for long, he said he wanted to return to his family.” Ali was the second child the family has lost: Wissam, the brother of Ali and Bassem, died of cancer 10 years ago at the age of nine — also on his birthday.

“They shoot to hurt someone and to make young people afraid to go out and demonstrate,” Bassem concluded. “But it doesn’t work.”

A version of this article was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.